6:05pm - 7:05pm
The Hidden Tool. A Qualitative Exploration of the Impact of the Psychedelic Experience on the Professional Development of Mental Health Workers
The aim of the current study is to investigate the impact that a psychedelic experience undergone with a therapeutic intention has on the professional development of mental health workers. Eighteen semi‐structured interviews were conducted in person with psychotherapy trainees, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and counselors who have taken a psychedelic substance in a setting designed by themselves according to the protocol used in clinical studies or in a ceremonial setting ﴾such conditions involve the presence of a sober sitter, the reduction of the influence of external stimuli, preparation and subsequent integration﴿. The data obtained were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis, the method of choice in most of the recent qualitative studies focused on the psychedelic experience. The results show an increase in perceived empathy toward the client’s suffering, combined with decreased concern for the familiarity or the acceptability of the reasons that provoke it; an increased tolerance for the client’s maladaptive or avoidant coping strategies; increased attention paid to the strengths of the client; improved ability to stay present in session, especially when the client experiences difficult emotions; increased trust in the client’s ability to overcome hardship and achieve goals; stronger conviction regarding the importance of accepting negative private events and manifesting self‐compassion; a transition from a perspective of mental suffering as an unwelcome phenomena that calls for urgent relief to understanding it as a fundamental part of the human experience through which clients can grow and reach their full potential. All participants stated explicitly that their psychedelic experiences have positively impacted their practice and their personal lives. These results suggest that psychedelic experiences conducted mindfully may prove beneficial for mental health workers in areas related to empathy and perspective-taking, self‐care and resilience, by providing an adaptive and optimistic stance on human suffering and growth.